The tradition of Female Genital Mutilation refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reason.  This is a practice that is not limited to communities from African countries where it is prevalent, but it is also practised in communities from Middle East and South East Asian countries.

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the Word Health Organization as “all procedures that involve the partial or complete removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes”.  It is sometimes known as female genital cutting or female circumcision.

Worldwide, 140 million women and girls have undergone FGM.  In the UK it is believed there are in excess of 170,000 women and girls living with FGM, an estimated 60,000 girls under 15 are at risk, and an estimated 137,000 girls and women are living with the consequences of FGM.  Reading has been highlighted by the government as one of 11 hot-spots for FGM practices in the UK.

FGM Facts

  • FGM affects girls & women in the UK
  • FGM is illegal in the UKhand-CIRCLE-stopfgm
  • FGM is child abuse
  • FGM can kill
  • FGM can affect pregnancy and childbirth
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women
  • Serious Crimes Act 2015 – Mandatory Reporting of FGM came into effect – 31 October 2015

Learn More about FGM

Conceptual Model

Reality Check

Reading Rose Clinic

Evidence on the effectiveness of prevention programmes have found that comprehensive and integrated strategies – comprising of community education, widespread mainstreaming of prevention into statutory systems, legislation and prosecution – have worked best to eliminate FGM.[1]

In Reading:

  • Community mobilisation and education efforts to prevent FGM are piecemeal and underfunded
  • Before Acre’s involvement prevention efforts were not coordinated
  • Low legal awareness among affected communities, professionals and populous at large
  • FGM is not mainstreamed into statutory services – health, education and social care
  • Cases of FGM are seriously under-reported
  • Perpetrators believe they can operate with impunity

[1] UNFPA, UNICEF (2012) Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM/C; Accelerating Change, Annual Report

Aims and Objectives

Reading Rose Clinic could potentially service the whole of Berkshire.  It will offer a unique service by providing a threefold programme simultaneously:

  1. Community prevention and awareness programme
  2. Expert medical treatment and diagnosis of FGM
  3. Expert FGM advice centre

Why Acre?

In addition to creating links and building trust with practicing communities, Acre has also made working relationships at both local and national levels, and is becoming a familiar name in the campaign to STOP FGM.  Acre is now being seen locally as the first point of call for matters relating to FGM, requests for information and attendance and input into events, such a CCG GP Tips event, TVP Reading Faith Summit, Public Policy Exchange (London) etc.

The Service

Rose Clinic

The Delivery Model

The Collaboration

What has Acre achieved to date?

There is now significant expectation from the community to take this work further. Survivors see our engagement as a beacon of hope.  Acre has already created a grass roots base with buy-in from all quarters, and helped establish:

  • FGM Community Working Group
  • Men’s Working Group
  • Partner Collaboration Dialogue
  • Galvanised Statutory Engagement
  • Public Awareness Campaign, Conferences, Symposium
  • Statutory Bodies & Health Sector Buy-In

Critical next steps

Acre’s recommendation to tackle FGM in Berkshire is a specialist, multi-disciplinary clinic and support centre – The Reading Rose Clinic.

What is required:

  • A support infrastructure which is broader than simply medical treatments
  • Support survivors deal with the physical, mental and social consequences of living with FGM
  • Work to safeguard children at risk by breaking the generational cycle through awareness and education

Tackling FGM

  • Article 24 of the CRC calls for the prohibition of all traditional practices that are prejudicial to the health and well-being of children across globe.
  • The UN has recognised FGM as torture.  Efforts to eliminate FGM have been gathering pace globally, reflected in the UN General Assembly.
  • This requires leadership across the relevant agencies – health and social care, education and the police – and the development and implementation of comprehensive and integrated strategies for tackling FGM.
  • A recent 2012 report of the Director for Public Prosecution (DPP) Action Plan to address barriers to prosecutions on FGM.
  • This means that all professionals must know their roles and responsibilities in eliminating FGM.
  • Integrate FGM prevention local strategies for safeguarding children from FGM abuse.
Traditions and Customs

Practice predates Islam and its is practised by Muslims, Christians and followers of traditional 10548153_1482582065339678_1215557046164631075_oAfrican religions.  In the UK, reasons for practising FGM may have adapted to their context, for instance, the use of FGM to curb sexuality and to preserve girls’ cultural identity, even as prevention of FGM in the country of origin gains ground.  Parents may also come under pressure from family and community members in the UK or abroad to have FGM performed on their girls, and need support to avert this.

Ingrained Mindsets

Due to the increase in international migration, FGM is also practiced among migrant communities 10911255_1526046580993226_3571665787801623112_oin many countries, including in the UK and in other parts of Europe.

Increased knowledge and awareness of FGM has not always resulted in abandonment of the practice as community-based surveys have shown that people can be aware of the illegality of FGM and its health impacts, but continue to support the practice.

Legislaltion and Response

International law also stipulates that freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs might be subject FGM Symposiumto limitations necessary to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Global responses to the elimination of FGM:

  • Community mobilisation and education efforts to prevent FGM are piecemeal, under-funded and are often not sustained
  • Prevention efforts are not coordinated
  • By not acting with due diligence to protect victims

Without comprehensive preventative responses, this is likely to be an on-going problem.

12697154_1640597102871506_4822826832813914456_oProfessionals – such as primary school teachers, doctors, midwives and nurses. For those under 18 years of age, FGM is often not viewed as a safeguarding issue, and is therefore not aligned with professionals’ current duties to identify, report and refer child maltreatment.

Community Feedback

Empowerment 2

  • Community-based education initiatives, while important, are not enough to stop FGM
  • Women with FGM may not always recognise that subsequent health problems are caused by FGM
  • Return to the maternity clinics during subsequent pregnancies, having undergone re-infibulation.  British girls who have escaped the practice when they were young, were forced by husbands and family members to undergo FGM at marriage.

Estimated Survivors in UK
Estimated No of females < 15 at risk
Countries practising FGM
Hotspots in UK


“I am worried about my friends, they are going to London to be stitched up again after each time they give birth at the [Royal Berks] hospital, because it is what their husbands want.”
Sudanese resident of Reading
“The woman I sit beside on the bus took her 3 year old daughter back home last summer [2015] and had her cut. She is in a mixed race marriage. Her husband is a white British man. He has no idea, she hasn’t told him! There is plenty, plenty people in Reading doing FGM” Gambian resident of Reading
“Me, I’m worried Victoria. I’m worried that if I go back home they’ll cut my daughter, even though I’m against it. I hate it. I couldn’t protect my older daughter from it, she has been cut. Now I’m so scared for my 10 year old. My mother is for it.”
Sierra Leonean FGM survivor, resident of Reading
Husband, ‘I won’t let my daughter [18 months, who he is holding in his arms] be cut, my Mum wouldn’t do that.” Wife, laughing “Well if they do cut her, I’m not coming back to this country, they might arrest me! I’ll just stay back home!” Husband, “Don’t even say that!”
Sudanese couple living in Reading
“It’s [FGM] happened to nearly all of us [Somali women], I’ve never spoken about it, but after hearing you speak today about what you are doing locally, and the plans you have to try and support us, I’m inspired. I really want to help make a difference in Reading”
18 year old Somali survivor, resident of Reading


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